Vanuatu Agricultural Research and Training Centre (VARTC)
M. Tiata Sileye
Vanuatu Red Dwarf (VRD)
Vanuatu, formerly called New Hebrides, is an archipelago located in Southwest Pacific Ocean, between the Solomon Islands and Fiji Islands. It consists of some 80 widely dispersed islands between the Torres Group (13° South) to the uninhabited Matthew and Hunter islets (22° South). As in most of Pacific island countries, coconut is widely used by rural populations for food and for numerous domestic purposes. The production of copra started in the 1870s and was the mainstay of Vanuatu economy during the 20th century. Coconut is grown over an estimated area of 119,000 ha (census 2007) which represents nearly 60% of the cultivated area. Even if its importance has decreased, copra remains the most important commodity of the country with about 30,000 metric tons of copra exported every year, half of this copra being crushed locally into oil.
On the southeast coast of the island of Espiritu Santo, near the village of Saraoutou (167°12E, 15°27S), a coconut research station was established in 1962. Up to 2001, the station was managed by the Institut de recherches pour les huiles et oléagineux (IRHO), a French research organization merged in 1985 into the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD). In 2002, the coconut research station was integrated into the Vanuatu Agricultural Research and Training Centre (VARTC), the national organization for agricultural research.
VARTC coconut genebank covers a surface area of about 55 ha. This field genebank comprises the exotic cultivars collection with 13 Tall and 13 Dwarf varieties and the local cultivars collection with 1 Dwarf (Vanuatu Red Dwarf) and 20 populations of Vanuatu Tall. It is regularly maintained and rejuvenated by hand pollination every 15 years or more frequently in case of cyclones. VARTC coconut genebank is remarkable by the diversity of origins
of the coconut varieties introduced from different countries of Africa, America, Asia and Pacific. The diversity of its Vanuatu Tall populations, of which some were collected during the CGRNAP-COGENT project between 1998 and 2000, is unique in the world.
More info: Conserved coconut germplasm from Vanuatu (3.0MB)
Collaborative Activities between BIOVERSITY/COGENT and Vanuatu
1. Capacity Building
a) Technical assistance/expert advice
From 1994 to 2001, three specialists visited Vanuatu on four technical assistance missions including assessing the country’s coconut R&D capability and assist the national programme in identifying common problems and opportunities for network collaboration; evaluating the progress of the ADB Phase 1 projects and identifying projects for ADB Phase 2 and IFAD-funding; developing a cost and return analysis protocol for ongoing and future intercropping experiments and training local researchers to use the protocol; and documenting the country’s conserved coconut germplasm and farmers’ varieties.
b) Training and human resources development
From 1996 and 1999, two regional STANTECH training courses were held in the country, participated in by 13 coconut researchers from six South Pacific countries.
Five local coconut researchers have undergone staff development training sponsored by COGENT from 1996 to 1999 on topics such as the STANTECH; coconut collecting and conservation; farmer participatory research; computer use, documentation and data analysis; and technical/ proposal writing and seminar presentation.
c) COGENT meetings/workshops
In 1996, Vanuatu was host to the CGRNAP-Pacific Review meeting held in Espiritu Santo.
2. Research Projects
A total of four projects were completed in the country, with the Department of Agriculture and Horticulture as the implementing agency.
3. Financial Support and Funding
Donor funding support for projects in Vanuatu amounts to US$55,000, mostly from ADB, APCC and IFAD; while national government counterpart financing amounts to US$74,900.